Saturday, August 07, 2010

PC Troubleshooting and Hack-ups.

Sometimes you can’t trust or rely on the data at hand.  Sometimes you have to dig deeper.

Sometimes you can be diverted from purpose by focusing incorrectly.

Case in point:

Yesterday I was having bad-awful issues with Firefox.

My blogging/browsing method involves dragging/dropping tabs for subjects/posts of interest as I surf and research over to my Bookmark Sidebar.  I have various folders set up for posts-to-be.

Only the drag-n-drop action was all over the place.  Sometimes I could place them where I wanted. Other times they would end up nowhere, or in a way-incorrect location.

It got so bad I started troubleshooting the issue.  I disabled add-on extensions one by one, changed themes.  Nothing helped.

I’d had something like that happen before with a bug in Firefox so since I was recently bumped to version 3.6.8 I figured that must be the issue.

So I built a whole new, ground-up, portable package of Firefox with a earlier version.

Strangely, the problem persisted.

By now at least an hour had passed.  I was getting no-where.

So I stepped back and let my brain relax…ding…could the problem be, literally, at hand?

I disassembled my optical mouse Logitech - LX7 Cordless Optical Mouse and examined it closely.  Sure enough.  When I turned the top lid over I could see wear had occurred on both of the piano-key like “hammers” that press down on the contact switches attached to the circuit board.

I thought for a moment how I could add some fresh bulk to them…but in a way that was “slick” and thin.  Digging through the tech-closet for inspiration I saw a bulk AAA battery pack.  It was made of clear thin plastic and had several flat sections.  I carefully snipped two tiny “shims” of material and then super-glued them carefully to the worn surface of the mouse-click “hammers”.  I then cleaned all the gunk from the innards of the mouse while they dried.

Reassembly was fast and testing found my “click/drag/drop” issue had vanished.

Inspired by that success and laden with leftover plastic I then removed the bulky shell of an old USB 2GB stick I’m using for Ready Boost but that blocks the other free USB port on the laptop.  I then made a clear micro-shell with remaining AAA battery cover plastic, barely taller and wider than the USB connecter itself. More super-glue and I now had a sweet, sealed, transparent USB stick cover on to protect the circuit board.  And my other USB port is fully accessible again.

Not a bad day….

By the way, since we are talking about data analysis of sorts did you see these?

I’m wondering how something like this might be able to be leveraged for forensics/incident response/IT Help Desk purposes.

Can’t wait to see the public release.

--Claus V.

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